Allied forces were advancing through Italy and the Germans were on the defensive, but a pair of generals still found time for a little wager.
General Bernard Montgomery paused during his reorganisation of the Eighth Army to make a bet with General Dwight Eisenhower, who oversaw the Allied invasion of Italy, about when the war would end.
Eisenhower reckoned he could march into Berlin by Christmas 1944. Montgomery thought him optimistic. The future of Europe was at stake, but for the two generals £5 (about €195 today) was enough.
The wager is documented in biographies of Montgomery and Eisenhower, but the slip of paper that recorded the bet has been hidden until now.
The sheet of lined paper, 5in by 3in, hung for more than 30 years on the wall of a Californian flat owned by the widow of one of Eisenhower's staff.
Colonel Ernest "Tex" Lee was Eisenhower's aide-de-camp during the World War Two and is believed to be the person who noted the terms of the bet.
The note, which is signed by Montgomery at the top and Eisenhower at the bottom, reads: "Agreement entered into, Oct 11, 1943, between Generals Eisenhower & Montgomery Amount £5 -- General E bets war with Germany will end before Xmas 1944. Local Time."
Eisenhower, who had flown to Italy from his headquarters in Algiers that day, referred to the incident in his auto-biography.
"I was personally so confident that we could launch Operation Overlord strongly and promptly in the spring of 1944 that I bet Montgomery five pounds that we would end the war by Christmas of that year," he wrote. "I lost the bet."
Bill Lee, Colonel Lee's son, said he remembered seeing the note when he was a child in the 1950s. The family decided to sell it after she died six months ago, he said.
Viscount Montgomery of Alamein, son of the World War Two commander, said he believes that his father collected his £5 win...